Raboyseyee and Ladies,
The heylige Ois, eishes chayil, the rest of the mishpocho, and our many guests who made the trip -some who flew back and forth in one day- are all thankfully back home from Los Angeles -some having survived abnormal liberties airlines are taking of late- where we all gathered to celebrate the aufruf on Shabbis and wedding -this past Sunday – of our amazing son Jonathan who married Rachel Glouberman, she the beautiful daughter of Flora and Steven -OBM- Glouberman: mazel tov! A mazel-tov shout-out to our entire family upon this momentous occasion.
A special mazel tov shout out to Jonathan’s grandparents, Ellie and Irv Bader, and to the entire Grossman and Bader family. Mazel tov as well to Rachel’s grandparents, Sultana & Maurice Jack Mayesh, to grandfather David Glouberman, to Dr. Irwin Weiss, and to the entire extended Glouberman mishpocho. May Rachel and Jon merit to enjoy many decades of blissful marriage and may they build a beautiful family together; omen!
As we approach Parshas Re’ay, we are mamish inching closer to the finish line. We’re in parsha #47 out of 54 and yet another cycle of the heylige Toirah will soon be completed. The Yiddin are still on the wrong side of the Jordan and waiting to cross. Moishe is still orating, laying on the guilt, and making last minute deals. As Re’ay begins, he introduces yet a new approach. What’s pshat? Mistama you already forgot that just last week, Moishe resorted to bribery in a desperate attempt to get the Yiddin to listen and follow the RBSO. It’s one parsha later and he has seemingly had a change of heart. This week he begins by threatening the Yiddin; here’s what he said:
“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse.” (Devorim 11:26). Gone are the offers of the RBSO’s blessings including fertility and lots of dough. They are replaced with potential curses if we do not follow: nice!
The good news: he does tell the Yiddin that they have free will: they can mamish decide which path to take. How all this ties in with the concept of Hashgocha Protis (all is preordained), ver veyst, though many rebbes have -over the years- insisted that there is no conflict between these two seemingly mutually exclusive principles. The future Ois’s head was zicher elsewhere when this topic was being taught and even today, decades later, he readily admits that he does not fully grasp how these concepts mesh in real life. Then again, where is it written that we must understand and chap everything? Nowhere! Farkert: chapping everything, or even more than one should, by exercising one’s free will, can be dangerous, if you chap. More good news: Yom Kippur is coming and soon!
Just a few weeks back, we began Sefer Devorim with one of Moishe’s famous soliloquies. Here we are four weeks later and guess what? It’s Parshas Re’ay and Moishe is still talking. Despite his age and imminent demise, he’s still going quite strong and will this week lecture the Yiddin on an array of topics, way too many to cover in this short review. Though Sefer Devorim is also called Mishneh Toirah (review) and though you mistama thought that Devorim is merely a repeat of the previous four books, it’s not the case. In fact, Parshas Re’ay contains 55 new mitzvis not previously taught to the Yiddin. Gevald! How are we to absorb so much information in such a short period of time and still talk to our friends during laining? The answer raboyseyee is that we can’t! Moishe directs the Yiddin and tells them that upon entry, they are to destroy all vestiges of avoido zoro (idolatry) from the Promised Land. Lommer unfangin by shedding some more light on the Ir Hanidachas (the wayward city). Ershtens ober, a shtikel one paragraph -or more- review as Re’ay is the longest parsha in Devorim which, as stated above, covers myriad topics, many unrelated.
Among the mitzvis of every variety discussed this week are; the false prophet or one who entices others to worship idols, miracle-workers, and dream-diviners who might try to woo the people into worshipping other gods. Even if their predictions come true, they must be killed. The laws governing an idolatrous city; kashrus of animals, fish and birds -sushi is avada ok but it didn’t catch on until centuries later, Maasros (Tithes); the mitzvah of charity which obligates the Yiddin to aid a needy fellow with a gift or loan (typically the loan becomes a gift), money lending, debt wipe-out during the Shmitah (sabbatical year); the Eved Ivri (Jewish slave); the consecration of the first born animal, and a review of the sholosh regolim (three festivals) of Pesach, Shavuois, and Succois. Though Moishe doesn’t mention that it’s a mitzvah Di’oyraiso to spend any or all of the holidays in a hotel setting -preferably over in Jerusalem- seemingly this is implied. Some taka ask why he only reviewed the three regolim and not the big ones of Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur? Ober says Rav S.R. Hirsch in his introduction to Sefer Devarim azoy: the two big ones (RH and YK) are not reviewed here or anywhere in Sefer Devarim because there were no changes in the practices of those holidays when living in the desert or living in Eretz Yisroel. Gishmak! In true Toirah fashion, Moishe does not present much in comprehensive code; instead, he lays out general principles, relying on the yet unwritten oral tradition of the heylige Gemora to color in the details. Though we avada believe -or taught to believe- that the oral tradition was given at the same time as was the heylige Toirah itself, it was only codified many years later.
Earlier we mentioned that the Yiddin were instructed to destroy the Ir Hanidachas, the wayward city. The inhabitants are subject to the death penalty and the city is razed to the ground, never to be rebuilt. In fact, there is a positive mitzvah to burn it and everything in it. This law applies to a city that has been deemed an “ir hanidachas,” meaning that they meet certain conditions. Lemoshol (by way of example), they have to have been led astray by at least two deceivers (Devorim 13:14). Those deceivers must be from the same shayvet (Tribe) as the city they misled (ibid.) and the majority of its population has to be so misled. How much is a majority you ask? Up to half the Tribe. A city must have at least 100 residents to qualify for Ir Hanidachas status; smaller cities fare better. On the other hand, if a city fails to be deemed an Ir hanidachas, the idolaters are still liable to the penalty of stoning and their heirs inherit their property. Yerusholayim and cities of refuge are ineligible to be deemed cities led astray, hence housing is always in great demand and prices never comes down. There are many more conditions for a city to be judged an Ir Hanidachas; check out the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 111b). Luckily this mitzvah only applies at a time when the Yiddin reside in their land. It is codified in the Mishneh Torah in the fourth chapter of Hilchos Avodas Kochavim. This mitzvah is #184 of the 248 positive mitzvois in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos.
Efsher you’re wondering how an entire city can be wayward. Can all mamish be so bad? Or, efsher you’re klerring that wiping out an entire city, its inhabitants and all else seems a shtikel harsh in response to some avoido zoro. Taka why? And as it turns out, this particular mitzvah is one of the most difficult topics in the gantze Toirah. For most Yiddin, it’s a shtikel shver to chap this concept. We picture idolaters as regular people who just happen to worship a statue instead of going to shul. Haven’t you done much worse? Is that so giferlich or giferlich enough to wipe out an entire city? Ver veyst? Ober, based on the reading, it appears that the Ir Hanidachas is considered to be a cancer and avada all know that a cancer must be removed and totally eradicated. It is so thoroughly corrupt that it must be altogether wiped out. Seemingly, this cancer attaches itself to others, to their families and possessions and all must be destroyed. Ober did this really happen, ever?
Ober raboyseyee, we are taught that idol worship, at least back then, was much worse than bowing down to a getchke (idol). Seemingly, part of ancient cult worship involved various sexual immoralities including public orgies, temple prostitutes, incest, bestiality, and carnal molestation (Leviticus 18:27). Now we’re talking! Mistama you can imagine or recall this entire grouping, chazir that you are. Its practitioners were known to sacrifice children to the gods (Deut. 12:31). And Rebbe Akiva reported that he saw a son bind up his father and feed him to ravaging dogs in service of idols, say it’s not so please. The RBSO knew His chosen people and realized that the Yiddin could easily fall prey to this type of behavior as they did in the Midbar with the Moabite and Midianite professionals -if you chap, shiksas. Being exposed to this type of behavior and seeing avoido zoro would have a deleterious effect on His fragile Nation. This was not the proper laying of the foundation -if you chap- for the new nation. Therefore, the RBSO commanded that the Wayward City be totally destroyed along with its inhabitants.
On the other hand, its total destruction by violent means of those residing in the Ir HaNidachas was contrary to the way Yiddin are supposed to live; we are not a violent people. Ober not to worry because says the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 71) azoy: the Wayward City never occurred; no such city was ever destroyed. The case is theoretical! Mamish a relief; resume normal operations! Is it possible that the RBSO gave such specific instructions -commanded through Moishe- that the Yiddin execute this upon entry and that all this was only in reality but theoretical? Well, blow me down! Was this the first ever fake camp color-war breakout? Why would the heylige Toirah mention such a case? Ver veyst, ober one answer given is that had we never known the penalty, we would never appreciate the severity of the crime. Veyter! Are there other threats which needn’t be taken seriously? There are: read about the ben sorer u’morer in a few weeks.
And the good news in the parsha? This week (Devarim 12:20-21) the Yiddin are given permission to eat meat: steak, ribs and more. Some say even Chinese. And just like that, a new industry was born: Fleishig (meat) restaurants, catering and in chasidishe circles, even fleishig brissim (circumcisions). Moreover, and as we will shortly learn, the entire Shichita (slaughtering) industry, mashgichim (kosher supervisors) and all, has its roots right here in Parshas Re‘ay. And if you’ve ever wondered why we need a mashgiach timidi (full time) to sit in your favorite food establishment, the Vaad will point to Parshas Re‘ay for validation of their existence. Is all that emes? Ver veyst, but we’re stuck with them until the Moshiach makes an appearance to straighten out the entire mess. Nu, let’s learn the heylige Toirah, the story of the Yiddin being permitted to eat meat, slaughtering procedures and more. Here we go.
Efsher you’re klerring azoy: what is the big deal about eating meat? What’s the chiddish (big news in town), you ask? Weren’t they eating meat before they got into the Promised Land? Didn’t we spend 10 weeks learning Sefer Vayikra, dedicated mostly to Korbonois (sacrifices) and weren’t we taught that the Koihanim (priests), and in some cases also the regular Joe bringing the Korban (sacrifice), were also able to eat a good piece of meat, albeit always well done? Indeed we did. And didn’t we learn that the Yiddin were also allowed to eat meat post-Mabul (flood) when all vegetation was destroyed? Does anyone have an answer, anyone?
The big news is azoy: Moishe tells the Yiddin in the name of the RBSO that they can eat unconsecrated meat-animals that are slaughtered just for their pleasure. Pshat is azoy: the Yiddin were given permission to eat and enjoy meat even outside of Korbonois (offerings). In plain English as only the Ois speaks, up until now, were they in the mood for a burger, a steak, a lean brisket sandwich, rack of lamb or even any other rack, if you chap, they would have to bring a Korban, and even then -under certain conditions- they would also get to partake. In fact, where they to chap stam azoy a rack – a forbidden one, if you chap- they would immediately thereafter be required to bring yet another korban. Ober this week, the RBSO – mistama under pressure from the meat purveyors and those who wanted to be in the restaurant business- tells the Yiddin it’s OK for them to eat meat anytime their hearts desire. Anytime, so long as you pay the Mashgiach and Vaad (Kosher Supervisory Agency) their vig. And now, if one is taka in the mood for a good piece of meat -who at times isn’t, if you chap- it’s all ok but only under certain conditions. And what might those be, pray tell?
Says the heylige Toirah (Devorim 12:20), azoy: “When G-d will enlarge your border, as He has promised you, and you shall say, ‘I would eat meat,’ for you have a desire to eat meat, to your heart’s entire desire may you eat meat. If the place that G-d will choose to place His name will be far from you, you may kill from your herd and from your flock, which G-d has given you, in the way I have commanded you and you shall eat in your cities according to your hearts’ desires.”
Shoin. That was one big juicy givaldige run-on sentence, as it this review at times, but let us take a closer look at all that was said here. Ershtens (first of all), seemingly the RBSO avada understood that His chosen people are full of desires, especially to chap a good piece of meat, and realizing that such desires are at times difficult to tame, said OK to meat. And He also said that the Yiddin can eat as much meat as they desire. Mistama, that was before the AMA decided that too much red meat can and will eventually clog our arteries. More: the RBSO also realized that people don’t want to schlep too far for good meat and said that if people will live far from where the RBSO designates -His selected home over in Jerusalem- they may have meat in their own cities and neighborhoods. Yiddin of course interpret this as being allowed to and encouraged to open food establishments immediately next to one another in order to ensure that none of them makes a living. Yiddin!
At the same time, the RBSO gave specific guidelines under which one can enjoy his meat; none of these include the way some (ok, many) of you chazerim do, say it’s not so. Lucky for most of you, Yom Kippur is very soon approaching. Let’s chazir (review): Until this specific permission was given, in order for the Yiddin to have a good order of ribs, they were required to bring a specific Korban (Korban Shelomim) which allowed for the giver to also partake in the game. And if you read the RBSO’s instruction paragraph carefully, you would have seen these words: “………..in the way I have commanded you and you shall eat in your cities according to your heart’s entire desire.” These few words are bolded so that you can mamish absorb the givaldige chiddish (amazing breakthrough) that the Chachomim (sages) came up with.
Shtelt-zich-di-shaylo (the question arises): where are those (above) commandments given? When? To Whom? And the answer is: to no-one! They are not found in the gantze Toirah Shebecsav (Five Books). Nowhere! Ober not to worry because it so happens that our Chachomim have mamish a brilliant answer -don’t they always- and that’s taka why they are called chachomim. They say: what do you mean the rules for slaughtering were not written down and therefore don’t exist? Are you an idiot? These rules were given to Moishe orally when he was up there for 40 days without eating and drinking and you can only imagine how hungry and thirsty he was while listening to the RBSO go over the details of shichita and food preparation. Moreover, the chachomim use this language to prove that Toirah she-baal-peh (the oral tradition) is taka real because otherwise the gantze parsha of kosher makes no sense. Mistama at the same time, the RBSO also told Moishe that every kosher establishment needs a full time Mashgiach though this rule wasn’t to become effective until later in the 20th century, that Broccoli needed to be hand washed -only in limited quantities per day so as not to tire out the mashgiach- and even more shtusim (bs). Hey: it’s oral law, do we dare argue over oral? Not the heylige Ois.
In fact, the laws of Shechita have been passed down in an unbroken chain from Mt. Sinai until today -so they say- and who are we to argue? If any of you amoratzim wish to argue, you will first need to first become proficient in Gemora (Maseches Chulin), the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 1-28). Back when the Ois was involved with a kosher Chinese food establishment, he concluded that it’s just easier to pay for the Hashgocho and be done with it.
Let’s close with this: it appears that you forgot a question we raised earlier about Noiach being given permission to eat meat post Mabul (flood) and if that’s taka (in fact) the case, and it looks very much like it taka was, so what is the big news in this parsha? The heylige Ois admits that he doesn’t know, ober here’s what he dug up while enjoying a lean brisket sandwich. Way back in Parshas Noiach, we were taught that he, Noiach, was given the heter (permission) to eat meat. And not a moment too soon as we also learned that his grandson Kinan -chazir minuvil that he was- couldn’t wait and took to Noiach’s meat, oy vey. Exactly what the issue (prohibition) to meat-eating was pre-Mabul, is avada the subject of a great machloikes rishoinim (argument among early Rabbis), but we do know that back then, too many people were doing not such nice things with meat, if you chap, and that’s what led to the entire flood to begin with. Efsher (maybe) there was too much mixing of white and dark meat? Ver veyst?
In fact, one of the major changes in world order post-mabul was the allowance of meat on the menu as the heylige Toirah itself states: “Behold, I have given to you all herbage yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit; it shall be yours for food.” And what does that mean? Says Rashi, azoy: the RBSO equated them [people] to animals and beasts as to food, and did not allow man and woman to kill a creature, and eat its meat. Ober, when the children of Noiach came out of the Tayvo (ark), He permitted meat to them, as it says (Bereishis 9:3), “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; like the green herbage; I have given you everything”
One thing we do know is that the RBSO did not like meat prepared rare and forbade us from eating the blood of an animal. Says the heylige Toirah (Devarim 12:23): “However, be strong not to eat the blood, for the blood is the soul, and you may not eat the soul with the flesh.” What’s pshat and why must one be “strong not to eat the blood”? Hey, isn’t blood good for the body and doesn’t it make one strong? Doesn’t this defy logic? What’s pshat here? Says Rashi, ”from the statement ‘be strong,’ you can infer that [the Jewish people] used to eat blood excessively. And maybe their excessive strength led to other desires, if you chap. In other words: being too strong and having strong desires can lead to other indiscretions, if you chap. Therefore, the Toirah found it necessary to say, ‘be strong’”—these are the words of Rebbe Yehudah. Case closed? No!
Said Rebbe Shimon ben Azzai: punkt farkert (the opposite is true!): the Yiddin had absolutely no tyva (desires) for blood consumption. “This statement comes only to caution you and to teach you the extent to which you should strengthen your observance of the mitzvis. For if the Toirah needed to ‘strengthen’ you to observe the prohibition of eating blood—which is easy to guard oneself against, because a person has no desire for it—then how much more so [must one strengthen oneself to observe] all other commandments.” Of course, there are more opinions and here, then, are two more.
Rashbam: Blood becomes absorbed into all the organs of the body. Therefore, the Toirah warns us to be especially careful not to eat it. And finally, Rabaynu Bachaye: Eating blood strengthens the body. Therefore, the Toirah promises that a person will be strong even if he does not eat blood. Seemingly this Rabaynu Bachaye was ahead of his time because avada nowadays, people are injecting themselves with new blood, their own blood, blood mixed with stem cells and maybe even bloody Mary’s and others. The bottom line on blood is azoy: everyone has an opinion; what else is new?
In any event, we know that the RBSO does not allow us to eat or drink blood and this is not the first time we are hearing this prohibition. Says the Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvois), azoy: the prohibition against the consumption of blood is mentioned no less than seven times in the heylige Toirah, three times in our parsha. Taka why so many mentions? Says Rashi so insightfully, azoy: the Yiddin of that generation were not great followers of rules; not much has changed! Because they had become accustomed to eating blood (excessively) while enslaved in Mitzrayim, and though a full forty years had now passed, they needed more than one warning to abstain. The RBSO was seemingly not happy with their behavior and the ingestion of blood was efsher one of the leading contributing factors. The rush of blood, if you chap, has avada been known to cause man (and woman) to behave more like the bihaymis they have been given permission to eat. However, blood consumption was affecting them and their behavior, the RBSO had seemingly seen enough and wanted it eliminated from their diets.
One more gidank (thought): Says the heylige Toirah: “If there shall be a destitute person among you, any of your brethren in any of your cities, in your land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you, you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your destitute brother. (Devarim 15:7). Moreover, not just are the Yiddin commanded to give but they must also be happy. “You shall surely give him and let your heart not feel bad when you give him…” (15:10). Oh, we forgot to mention posik #9: “You shall not harden your heart or close your hand… lest there be a lawless thought in your heart” (15:7-9). Seemingly, when it comes to giving and helping, it’s good to be a softie: Hard is not always good, if you chap!
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv